Administrators LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
Washington Assessment Letter

June 22, 2006

Dr. Terry Bergeson
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Washington Department of Public Instruction
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

Dear Superintendent Bergeson:

Thank you for your participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) standards and assessment peer review process under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965(ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review. As you know, with the implementation of NCLB’s accountability provisions, each school, district, and State is held accountable for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards having all students proficient by 2013–14. An assessment system that produces valid and reliable results is fundamental to a State’s accountability system.

I am writing to follow up on the letter that was sent to you on May 5, 2006. In that letter, we presented the results of the peer review of the Washington standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for Washington to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. At this time, the need for that evidence remains.

As you will recall, the Department laid out new approval categories in a letter to the Chief State School Officers on April 24, 2006. These categories better reflect where States collectively are in the process of meeting the statutory standards and assessment requirements and where each State individually stands. Based on these new categories, the current status of the Washington standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Washington’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005–06 school year has at least two fundamental components that are missing or that do not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements, in addition to other outstanding issues that can be addressed more immediately. These deficiencies must be resolved in a timely manner so that the standards and assessment system administered next year meets all requirements. The Department believes that Washington can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006–07 school year.

Washington’s system has at least two fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve Washington’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with (1) the technical quality, alignment and academic achievement standards of the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (the Developmentally Appropriate Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or DAW); and (2) the alignment of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and the Washington Alternate Assessment System (WAAS) to grade level content and academic achievement standards. It is our understanding that the DAW is used for assessing students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and that such results are used in AYP decisions consistent with the Department’s related regulations; please contact me if this is wrong. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Washington must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Accordingly, Washington is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on Washington’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. Washington must provide, not later than 25 business days from receipt of this letter, a plan and detailed timeline for how it will meet the remaining requirements to come into full compliance by the end of the 2006–07 school year. Beginning in September 2006, Washington must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Washington does not meet the timeline set forth in its plan, the Department will initiate proceedings, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold 15 percent of Washington’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Washington.

On a separate but related note, last year we approved an amendment to Washington’s accountability plan whereby “reading/language arts” AYP decisions for grades 4, 7, and 10 would be made in one of two ways: 1) based on reading scores alone, and 2) based on reading and writing scores. Specifically, Washington was approved to “use writing in combination with reading as an alternative option to reading when determining proficiency in language arts grades 4, 7, and 10.” As part of that approval, the Department specified the following: “For the upcoming standards and assessments peer review, Washington must submit appropriate evidence that demonstrates that both the reading/writing combination and the reading only option meet the required critical elements for the state’s assessment system” (http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/letters/acwa3.html#att, see the attachment). Because Washington did not provide information about the writing assessment in its peer review package, I would like to discuss the role of this assessment in AYP decisions for the 2005-06 school year. As a point of clarification, Washington is not required to add “writing assessments” to each of grades 3-8 to meet the NCLB requirements, unless Washington’s own content standards at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 warrant it. What NCLB does require is that Washington provides evidence showing that, in the grades for which writing is used to determine AYP (grades 4, 7, and 10), the writing assessment meets all the NCLB assessment requirements.

I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system and we are committed to helping you get there. Toward that end, let me reiterate my earlier offer of technical assistance. We remain available to assist you however necessary to ensure you administer a fully approved standards and assessment system. We will schedule an additional peer review when you have evidence available to further evaluate your system. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Freeman (catherine.freeman@ed.gov) or David Harmon (david.harmon@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Henry L. Johnson

Enclosure

cc: Governor Christine Gregoire
Mary Alice Heuschel


Summary of Additional Evidence that Washington Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the Washington Assessment System

2.0 – ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS

  • Approved academic achievement standards for the WASL in reading and mathematics at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 with documentation of diverse stakeholder participation.
  • Approved academic achievement standards for the DAW in reading and mathematics at grades 3-8 and 10 with documentation of diverse stakeholder participation, if used for AYP decisions
  • Approved alternate academic achievement standards for the WAAS in reading and mathematics at grades 3-8 and 10 with documentation of diverse stakeholder participation.
  • Additional guidelines for Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams to use when deciding which assessment a student should take and additional documentation that parents are informed about and understand the consequences of agreeing to the use of an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards.

3.0– FULL ASSESSMENT SYSTEM

  • Documentation of full WASL and WAAS implementation at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 as planned during the 2005-06 school year and evidence that assessments at these grade levels measure challenging content.
  • Documentation that the DAW meets all ESEA requirements, if used for AYP decisions.

4.0 – TECHNICAL QUALITY

  • Documentation of the validity and reliability of the WASL at grades 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10.
  • Documentation of the validity and reliability of the WAAS at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8.
  • Technical quality documentation for the WASL and WAAS standard setting in reading and mathematics at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8.
  • Documentation of the technical quality (validity, reliability, standard setting) of the DAW, if used for AYP decisions.
  • Final equating study technical report for the WASL at grades 4, 7, and 10 in reading and mathematics.
  • Documentation that the State monitors its assessment system and testing activities with special attention to evaluating accommodations for students with disabilities and limited English proficient (LEP) students.

5.0 – ALIGNMENT

  • Plans delineating on-going and long-term processes whereby alignment between the assessment(s) and the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) will be monitored and improved over time.
  • Documentation (including detailed test blueprints and item specifications) of reading and math WASL alignment at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 with EALRs and GLEs.
  • Documentation (including detailed test blueprints and item specifications) of reading and math DAW alignment at grades 3-8 and 10 with EALRs and GLEs, if used for AYP decisions.
  • Documentation of reading and mathematics WAAS alignment at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 with EALRs and GLEs.

6.0 – INCLUSION

  • Enrollment and number of students assessed by grade level, content area, and subgroup.
  • Enrollment and number of students with disabilities assessed with the WASL, WAAS, and DAW (if used for AYP decisions) by grade level and content area.
  • Guidelines for educators to determine in which assessment (WASL, WAAS, or DAW (if used for AYP decisions) a student with disabilities should participate.
  • Documentation that the State is distinguishing between migrant and LEP students with regard to assessment policies and procedures.
  • Documentation that procedures are in place to inform parents/guardians of students with disabilities about appropriate assessment accommodations.

7.0 – REPORTING

  • Documentation that performance descriptors for the WAAS and DAW (if used for AYP decisions) are appropriately included on student assessment reports.

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Last Modified: 07/06/2006